It started in the car yesterday as I drove the kids home from school. Chatting about the day at school with my son is very often like watching a python swallow a small buck – slow and torturous.
“How was your day?”
“What did you do?”
“You were at school for 8 hours; you did nothing in 8 hours?”
“I don’t remember what we did… I hurt my knee climbing the tree.”
And so it goes on. I ask about specific classes. I ask who he played with. I ask what games he played. When we got to this point in the conversation yesterday I thought for sure I would be able to draw out a multi-syllabic answer. You see, on Friday he had made a plan to meet some kids in the grade below him on the top field at first break (recess), to play his games. He had finally found a gang who wanted to be ordered around by him, who would lovingly and willingly obey his every command. So, I asked if he had met up with the acolytes.
“No. Gary blackmailed me into playing wrestling instead.”
I thought that perhaps he didn’t quite understand the word ‘blackmail’ but it turns out that he understood it perfectly. In an unfortunate ‘slip across the floor’ incident in the boys’ bathroom before first break, Gary had seen that he had forgotten to put underpants on in the morning. (I barely reacted to this. His father, 23Thorns, cannot remember where he puts his wallet, his keys, his netbook, his Galaxy Tab, his phone from one day to the next. It is no surprise to me or to my son even that as 23’s offspring he should forget something so fundamental in getting dressed.) But back to the bathroom…Gary threatened to whip my son’s school shorts off in front of the whole school unless he played WWF with him for the rest of the day. My son was in no way traumatised by the incident. He’s a smart kid. He weighed up the potential embarrassment against the potential game-domination pleasure and he made the right call. He wrestled with Gary.
My 3 year-old daughter was in the car with us though. She is not yet at the stage where she has any issues with public nudity. She couldn’t understand what all this fuss was about. Why the red-faced submission to Gary’s manipulation? I launched into a “private parts” discussion. My son nodded his head sagely as I spoke. At the end of my long discussion in which I thought I had been perfectly clear, the 3 year-old said, “But for girls it’s okay to show your panties.” I sighed audibly and prepared to start all over again, when the 8 year-old sage said to his sister, “Girls should NEVER lift their skirts unless there’s a mouse under it.”
My heart swelled with pride. We have raised a perfect little Victorian gentleman. And with that, I thought sex education classes were over with for the day. How wrong I was.
I turned on my computer after the kids had gone to bed and opened my Scrabble games. I started a game with 19 year-old Wayne and his opening move was really rather special.
It was not QUIZZED. It was not even a word. His opening gambit was to type into the chat bar the charming phrase, “wld u like 2 b my f**k buddy?” Good grief! Now, I’m not a prude…Okay, maybe I’m a little bit prudish. My tea shot out my nose and I called 23 over to examine the cheek. We imagined all sorts of witty retorts but in the end settled on “No, thank you.”
What I wanted to say Wayne was that Twitter and Facebook and texting have much to answer for. Passion in 140 characters is a hard ask and it is nigh on impossible to discern in a field of C U L8R and ROFLing and U’REs. Sexting with phrases like “f**k buddy” is just not sexy. Sexy is real language used with real skill or with real feeling. There are words so beautiful to say that I smile just to think of them.
So, for Wayne and his continuing education, and because it was just Valentine’s Day, and because real words are moving, and because it is simply nice to read a love letter, I’ve collected a few of the greats below.
A buck killed for you – Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn
About a dozen of Henry’s letters to Anne Boleyn survive. He wrote passionately, with great longing, and a little bit of saucy too. “…wishing myself (especially an evening) in my sweetheart’s arms, whose pretty dukkys [breasts] I trust shortly to kiss.”
I rather like the following extract though. Partly because it’s less well-known than the letter the above sentence is drawn from and also partly because my father used to say to me when I was a little girl, that for me he would killa da bull. This is in no way intentionally creepy. It is simply a childhood association between the death of livestock and deep, endless love. hmmmm..I should stop talking now, shouldn’t I?
I send you this letter, beseeching you to apprise me of your welfare, which I pray to God may continue as long as I desire mine own. And to cause you yet oftener to remember me, I send you, by the bearer of this, a buck killed late last night by my own hand, hoping that when you eat of it you may think of the hunter;
and thus, for want of room, I must end my letter,
written by the hand of your servant, who very often wishes for you instead of your brother.
“Violent impulses as tumultuous as fire” Napoleon and Josephine
To say that Napoleon was a hot-headed might not need saying. He was also jealous and possessive but, boy, were his letters to Josephine worthy of more than 140 characters.
Dec. 29, 1795
I awake all filled with you. Your image and the intoxicating pleasures of last night, allow my senses no rest. Sweet and matchless Josephine, how strangely you work upon my heart. Are you angry with me? Are you unhappy? Are you upset? My soul is broken with grief and my love for you forbids repose. But how can I rest any more, when I yield to the feeling that masters my inmost self, when I quaff from your lips and from your heart a scorching flame? Yes! One night has taught me how far your portrait falls short of yourself! You start at midday: in three hours I shall see you again. Till then, a thousand kisses, mio dolce amor! but give me none back for they set my blood on fire.
I have not spent a day without loving you; I have not spent a night without embracing you; I have not so much as drunk a single cup of tea without cursing the pride and ambition which force me to remain separated from the moving spirit of my life.
Josephine! Josephine! Remember what I have sometimes said to you: Nature has endowed me with a virile and decisive character. It has built yours out of lace and gossamer. Have you ceased to love me? Forgive me, love of my life, my soul is racked by conflicting forces. My heart obsessed by you, is full of fears which prostrate me with misery…I am distressed not to be calling you by name. I shall wait for you to write it.
“Come closer to me. Come closer. I promise it will be beautiful” Henry Miller and Anais Nin
These two were wildly unconventional but they sure could write!
Henry to Anais on March 21, 1932
Anais, I don’t know how to tell you what I feel. I live in perpetual expectancy. You come and the time slips away in a dream. It is only when you go that I realize completely your presence. And then it is too late. You numb me. [...] This is a little drunken, Anais. I am saying to myself “here is the first woman with whom I can be absolutely sincere.” I remember your saying -“you could fool me. I wouldn’t know it.” When I walk along the boulevards and think of that. I can’t fool you – and yet I would like to. I mean that I can never be absolutely loyal – it’s not in me. I love women, or life, too much – which it is, I don’t know. But laugh, Anais, I love to hear you laugh. You are the only woman who has a sense of gaiety, a wise tolerance – no more, you seem to urge me to betray you. I love you for that. [...]
I don’t know what to expect of you, but it is something in the way of a miracle. I am going to demand everything of you – even the impossible, because you encourage it. You are really strong. I even like your deceit, your treachery. It seems aristocratic to me.
“I kiss you passionately” Tsar Nicholas II to Tsarina Alexandra
I had a purple hardcover book which contained in it the letters between the Tsar and the Tsarina. I seem to have lost the book in one of our moves but I remember parts of it so clearly. Theirs was such a beautiful love, Nicky’s and his Sunny’s.
I have finished my book, and shall certainly read it aloud to you and the children when I return home
My dear little Sunny, I am burning with impatience to see you as soon as possible, to hear your voice, to look into your eyes…
I think that separation actually makes love stronger and mutual attraction greater.
My joy, my Sunny, my adorable little Wify, I love you and long for you terribly!
Your old hubby
“My Angel, my everything, my very self” Beethoven to his Immortal Beloved
And then, most heart-wrenching of all Beethoven’s famous letter to his Immortal Beloved. We don’t really know who the intended recipient was (although there are many guesses). The letter was never sent.
Good morning, on 7th July. While still in bed my thoughts turn towards you my Immortal Beloved, now and then happy, then sad again, waiting whether fate might answer us – I can only live either wholly with you or not at all, yes I have resolved to stray about in the distance, until I can fly into your arms, and send my soul embraced by you into the realm of the Spirits – yes unfortunately it must be – you will compose yourself all the more since you know my faithfulness to you, never can another own my heart, never – never – O God why do I have to separate from someone whom I love so much, and yet my life in V[ienna] as it is now is a miserable life – Your love makes me at once most happy and most unhappy – at my age I would now need some conformity[,] regularity of my life – can this exist in our relationship? – Angel, I have just heard that the mail coach goes every day – and thus I must finish so that you may receive the letter immediately. – be patient – only through quiet contemplation of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together – Be calm; for only by calmly considering our lives can we achieve our purpose of living together.- be calm – love me – today – yesterday – What yearning with tears for you – you – you my life – my everything – farewell – oh continue to love me – never misjudge the most faithful heart of your Beloved
L.Forever thine forever mine forever us.
23Thorns to TracyLovesHistory
Yup, it’s my husband’s Love. And Bacon post. Or at least part of it.
How can you potter around in the evenings for a week or so, not fighting or ignoring each other, but busy with your own things; books, TV shows, blogs, computer games, only to walk past each other in a passage and be electrified by a simple touch, a hand on the stomach or an arm brushing an arm, and feel your heart quicken like you were eighteen again, and share the word for it with someone who loves pie.
How can you stop, unseen, behind someone, as they wash the dishes or bend to pick up a scattered toy, and see the graceful curve of their neck, or the fall of their hair over their face, and be reminded, even after all these years, that you have not seen all of them yet, and share the word for it with someone who loves lolcat pictures.
I really love bacon. I might even write a poem about it. My wife, though, is just going to have to wait until the English get invaded again, and someone brings us some bigger words.
So, there let me end Wayne’s lesson in passion and the writing about it. Never use SMS speak. Don’t swear. Buy a thesaurus. Punctuate and capitalise.
Ladies, keep your skirts on, unless you spot a mouse or a smart and funny wordsmith.